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This One's for You, Tapper OR Backyard Brew and Tabletop, Too

This weekend is the unofficial start of summer here in the United States. For many of us, that marks a time full of grilled burgers and cold brews. Previously, we talked about how food might disagree with you, and how to get the help of Peter Pepper at your table top. This year, the focus is on the brew part of the cookout events. While half of Never Say Dice is a teetotaler, that doesn’t mean we can’t all appreciate the strange fun of beer and games. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this year we’re pouring one out for Tapper. We’ll get into a bit of the game's history and its main character. We’ll also put together a Risus version for you to include in your own games. (If you don’t know Risus, fear not! Check out some of our previous Risus posts where we’ve taken inspiration from other classic arcade games, including Gauntlet and Pole Position. (Not to mention out our very own "Introduction to Risus.") So sit back, pour yourself a cold one with us, and enjoy learning about our old friend Tapper (star of Tapper).

If you didn’t grow up with the game, you might only be familiar with Tapper from the Wreck-it-Ralph movies from 2011 and 2018, in which case, you’d be missing out on some interesting arcade game history. Tapper was released by Bally Midway in 1983, but you wouldn’t have found it in arcades at the time. The game was originally sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, and was foaming with Budweiser branding. Their logo was featured on the machine exterior, the marquee, and even in the background of the game itself. The cabinets included a classic bar-style brass rail footrest and drink holders, all to put you in the place of the bartender onscreen, sliding drinks to patrons, rescuing their empties, and doing it all in increasingly strange bars. If you can track down a really old version of the machine, you’ll find yourself using an actual Budweiser beer tap handle. (These were eventually replaced with smaller plastic copies that still featured the Budweiser logo.) The game even featured the Budweiser slogan “This Bud’s for You” during the minigame. All of this meant the machine would only be available in bars.

You may object, “but I remember playing it in an arcade!” If you do, you probably played the Root Beer Tapper version of the game, which featured our hero as a soda jerk serving root beer, once again in strange locales. The original Tapper machine became popular enough in bars that the demand grew enough for it to slide into arcades in 1984. Fearing that it would come across as marketing alcohol to minors, the game was rebranded right down to the slogan in the minigame, which became “this one's for you.” You might also have played one of the various ports of the game on: Apple II, Atari's 8-bit computer family, 2600 and even the ill-fated 5200, BBC Micro, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, MSX, ZX Spectrum, IBM PC, or Amstrad CPC. If this was how you got your Tapper (note the return to the shorter title), you might have seen an even stranger version that was either Mountain Dew or Pepsi-themed and, bizarrely, went back to the original intoxicant-serving bartender instead of the reworked soda jerk of the Root Beer Tapper. There was even a modern mobile take on the game in 2011 that's unfortunately no longer around. No matter which version of the game you enjoyed, though, it might surprise you to find this wasn’t the main character’s only (or even first) video game entry.

In 1983, but before the release of  Tapper, Bally Midway put out a game called Domino Man with a rather familiar-looking star. Domino Man (of Domino Man)'s goal, as the title implies, was to set up a number of  dominoes while avoiding pedestrians, killer bees, a walking clock for some reason, and, of course, bullies. The similarities between Domino Man and Tapper could be a coincidence... or were Bally Midway trying to create their own mustachioed mascot to compete with Nintendo’s Mario, who had debuted two years earlier? It might sway your opinion to know there was a THIRD game featuring yet another similar-looking character called Timber that Midway released in 1984. Three games worth of material? That's easily enough for a well-rounded Risus character.

There are a few ways we can gather our cliches for this build. The first, and most obvious, is to pull a bit of inspiration from each game. Starting with Domino Man (can we call our character "Domino T. Timber?"), we can focus on that balancing skill…We’ll call it Steady Hands (3), a concept that applies to all three games. This will be useful for things like ranged attacks, balancing, and slight of hand. For another entry, we’ll use Timber and keep it easy with Lumberjacking (3). It’ll require tools of the trade (an axe) and be good for things like axe-throwing, chopping wood, and log walking, (and maybe putting on women’s clothing and hanging around in bars.) Our main inspiration, though, should come from Tapper itself. We’ll give Domino T. Timber Drink Aficionado (4), good for things like telling the difference between Pepsi and Coke and pouring drinks for the masses (both bartending and sodajerking).

The other thing we could do is base our stats on Tapper alone. Conveniently, each of the game's levels takes in place in one of  four different types of bars, which lends to a standard 4, 3, 2, 1 Risus spread. For Western Saloon, we’ll give Tapper Hangover Specialist (2). Good for making home remedies and strong breakfasts. For the Sports Bar, we’ll give Tapper Endurance Champ (4) for all of the running around he does. Heading into the punk rock bar, we’ll set up Tapper with Thrash and Bash (3), giving Tapper the ability to fight and play a few licks on the guitar. Finally, with Tapper in the Space Bar, we’ll give him Alien Relations (1). He knows how to talk to a wide variety of people beings after all. 

Now that you have a few versions of our Tapper hero, you have a couple ways to pour him into one of your games. You don’t have to use these versions, though, feel free to create your own hero based on these loosely-connected games. Or if you’re in the mood for digital games, you have a wide variety of Tappers (and loosely-related sequel and prequel) to try out. Hopefully, at the very least, you'll have a few bits of gaming history to add to your nerdly discussions. Until next time folks, have fun with your games and break some dice!

- A

Send comments and questions to neversaydice20@gmail.com or Tweet them @neversaydice2.


 

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